Arts & Elbows

A catalogue of commentary on events in Thanet and occassionally the rest of the world.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A day in the life of a film star

It's not every day you stumble across a man working around a charred skeleton in Margate, but fear not it just happened to be the very first thing seen having turned up to the filming of the "Exodus" project at the Dreamland site. My son, the Slug, had wanted to get involved and was invited to be an extra and him being just nine and three quarters meant I had to tag along to keep an eye on him.

So having parked and signed in at security it was into one of the disused parts of the once great theme park. We could tell we were in the right place by all the costumed and made up folk sitting around including two ragged looking youngsters entertaining themselves on a laptop.

Having let the right folk know we where there it was time for the main activity of the day for the talent known as extras, sitting around waiting. There was a brief flurry of activity in visiting the wardrobe department, and another when it was suggested that rather than just being a parent I could be an injured teacher in the day's scene, namely the bombing of a school. Well never one to turn down a hint of fun I jumped at the opportunity.

So relatively soon after I was made up by the delightful Sophie and Zoe. Some of the children in the scene were as young as four and five and as the first injured teachers wandered out of make-up there were a few startled and worried young faces. So they were all brought in to watch me being made to look as if I'd suffered from a bomb blast. It started with wide eyed wonder verging on horror from the youngest but eventually as I joked and chatted they soon realised it was just a grisly game.

Then it was the call to the set, where Penny, the highly talented director, set about explaining what was going to happen. She spent most time with the children, probably realising they were the most talented amongst us, and making sure they realised it was all make believe. Some paid more attention than others, the Slug seemingly paying least.

Then it was make-up for the children, with Slug ear-marked for quite extreme make-up as his boyish taste for guns and gore had been noted. Sophie and Zoe spent ages working on him, something he enjoyed, and the first example of just how much effort goes into film production for a relatively few minutes footage.

This handsome looking soul is a runner, so I was lucky to catch him standing still. He basically looked after us humble extras, tucking himself out of camera shot and giving us our cues to start moving. He explained what's going on as well as being a genuinely affable chap. He's working as a runner to fund his training, so one day he will be a fully qualified stuntman.

This is Lucy, it's hard to tell what her job title might be because she seems to have more than one job and actually does more running around than we saw the runner do. She wasn't sure about letting me take her photo because I've taken it before and not used it. Not one to disappoint a lady, here it is.

This is one of my fellow injured teachers, the only difference being he's actually a teacher. So should you know any pupils from the Marlowe Academy let them know there's one of their teachers involved. I can't imagine any of my teachers doing anything similar, shame on them.

The scene is set, the idea being the injured teachers and pupils stagger out of this charred doorway making sure they don't trip over anything. Doesn't look much but with the smoke, lights and acting all going it was a scary scene. Mostly we stood around waiting to be packed inside, then we waited a little longer to hear the cry of action.

On the other side of the camera are piles of production folk. It might look like they do very little but that's far from the case. The amount of effort put in for every second of film is staggering. After a whole day we'd done three takes, all of us staggering out of the school. I lumbered around like a large piece of ham, but Slug went down a storm, showing that watching lots of old war movies is an educational use of time. Director Penny congratulated him on his part and quite genuinely so, she said similar to me but she was just being nice.

Shooting finished and having all been badly injured there was little more to do than pose for a few photos amongst ourselves. Expect to see dear old Ben Kidger in the finished scene quite a bit as he seems to be a natural drama queen, and the cameras love that.

Having finished playing our humble roles we took the opportunity to wander around the Shanty Town set, which was more entertaining than the meagre funfair it contained in the summer.

It was also quite spooky, the level of detail is such as to suggest a real shanty town but there's no one there. Again the amount of work put in is staggering.

This is the main path leading to the immigration control gates, washing hangs from lines, stalls are laid out selling various tat worthless in the real world, and tiny hovels lean against each other.

Having signed our release forms it's time to go home. Slug's acting has been exhausted but he insisted on wearing the make-up home so he might terrify his mother, and who am I to deny him that honest pleasure?

Spooky Pooky

This Saturday night sees one of Thanet's greatest annual creative events. In it's fourth year the "Two Days Later" film festival is based on a simple competition. Entrants are encouraged to make a short horror film in less than forty-eight hours, hence the title, and the films are all shown in one night with prizes dished out for the best.
This Saturday (28th) is the screening night and I can't recommend it highly enough, there's an incredible packed atmosphere which is rarely found at other art events. It's also a great chance to see just how much talent there is around here.
The whole wonderful thing takes place at the Community Pharmacy Gallery at 16 Market Place in Margate. Doors open at 7pm, with the screening starting at 8pm. For more details visit the 2 Days Later website. If you want a seat get there early.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Say "Bonjour" to Regeneration

The reality of the "Continental Market" imposed upon Margate High Street is a less than clever combination of making the lower High Street look like there's a gas leak and the extension of the ghost town feel of the old town a few hundred yards more. Today hundreds of cars turned the corner from Marine Parade, paused at the ugly barrier and then drove away.

Where the parking bays have been suspended for the placing of stalls there's actually a line of white vans. So folks like us who pay both rates and additional fees for parking are forbidden from parking there while traders who make no contribution to the town are given "carte blanche" to park where they choose and free of charge too.

So should you ever try parking illegally, as these vans did because suspension of parking means exactly that, just produce a yellow piece of paper with the words "Continental Market Trader" on it. If it works for them surely it'll work for everyone else?

For some free parking in spacious bays just isn't good enough. So armed with the all powerful scrap of yellow paper some were free to park on double yellow lines. An attractive addition to the High Street I'm sure you'd agree.

A couple of businesses were allowed to have deliveries as usual but if you're not a bank but a trader who doesn't use security firms to move cash around you're stuck. Good to see the crew of one such armoured van find the whole situation hilarious, no where else would they see such a stupid way of doing things.

The lads at Warreners spent the entire day wondering just where all their customers had gone. Suggestions that this scheme was bringing more people into the town were met with responses which I prefer not to quote.

Meanwhile at Domino's they stood around wondering not just how customers are meant to drive up to order a pizza but also how they're meant to run a delivery service when access to their premises is so limited.

So there you have it, a scheme dreamt up to increase trade by closing roads and parking spaces which started on Thursday and looks set to damage trade all the way through to Saturday. Luckily because it's a Margate Town Partnership idea no one at Thanet District Council is lumbered with any responsibility, neither is anyone elected. It won't stop there though, they'll all be grinning inanely and nodding positively when they claim it was a massive success.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sacre Bleu

The latest Margate regeneration wheeze really takes the biscuit. As if spending £4.9 million on the old M&S premises to allow French artists to have a exhibition courtesy of the Contemporary Turner Centre wasn't enough, next the lower High Street is to be closed for a French Market.
Here we'll pay French traders to sell overpriced French produce on stalls set in front of local traders' premises, rates free of course. The parking spaces along the lower High Street which the businesses there depend on for both customers and deliveries will be unavailable and every stall holder will be given free parking in the few spaces left, while local traders still have to pay.
Just what is the thinking behind this? Could it be that tortourous schemes like this mean spending money, hiring people, lots of organising and therefore offers jobs for the boys paid rather well from the public purse? And why the French? Maybe fact finding trips to local traders aren't as much fun as continental jaunts and the bottles of wine likely to be picked up along the way.
A genuinely useful idea, such as free short-term parking in all the towns, would be simple to implement, wouldn't require employing people and would be cheaper. Of course it'd be hard to build an empire around simple and economically useful ideas, so it remains unlikely to ever happen.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A nice B&B by the seaside

It's that time of year again when Britain's finest but most unlikely artistic duo share another show. There's Andy Baldwin who looks half Grizzly Adams and half Bigfoot, and Brian Bushell who's all Harpo Marx who link together the former's sculpture and the latter's painting into the most unlikely side by side show on earth.


Brian Bushell's paintings remain the same as they've always been - disguising themselves as over simplistic strokes on first view, almost childish in their naivity. On further peering they're as accurate as X-rays, as concise as Japanese calligraphy despite their being disguised as near meaningless dark vague forms.


Andy Bushell's sculpture is similarly perverse and deliberately so. Large hulks of machinery invented to meet a requirement of smaller scale. In an age of microchips designed to manage everything there's a liberating joy in having a half-ton rusting machine six feet tall designed to do nothing but go "tapperty-tap-tap" every ten minutes.


This heady combination results in a show of very enigmatic work, most viewers adore it but aren't sure just why that might be and the perversity behind that is part of it's appeal. Neither would dare to patronise the viewer with an explanation of what they do nor why they do it, and therein lies the appeal. While most contemporary artists are desperate to convey their deep and meaningful intent in the most earnest way Bushell and Baldwin aren't really bothered by any of that. They actually trust the viewer to make up their own mind.

Above is a fine example, it's a Water Megaphone designed to amplify the sound of water. You crank the handle, put your head in the megaphone end and "et voila!" the sound of water is amplified. There's no need to amplify the sound of water though, and least of all for a half ton machine with hand cranked pump to do that, but in the finest tradition of long forgotten Victorian science that's exactly what it does. Isambard K. Brunel would have adored it.

Similarly in paint here's a vaguely circular scrawl, it seems too hurried and simple to portray anything of worth. A closer view reveals the form of a dead cat so microscopically accurate as to defy more modern forms of recording. It's painting disguised as lazy daub, a subtle ploy to allow fans of painting and painters to appear to accept the lazy painting of the post-modernists.

Above is "One Ton Bell", a frankly ludicrous invention lost in the classified advertisements of nineteenth century editions of the "London Gazette". You can wheel it around and ring it, like a portable belfry. Like almost every other modern piece of sculptural art it will having you scratching your head trying to work out just what use this could be to man or beast, bar the woman who bought it. The female buyer lives in Venice and was looking for a way to call her husband home when he's mucking about about on the water in his boat. So unlike every other piece of contemporary sculpture, it has a function most appreciated by it's new owner.


Of course a newly opened show isn't all about the art contained therein. It gives the gallery owner the opportunity to impress everyone with his Bertie Wooster impersonations.

It also gives the gallery staff the chance to run around making sure everyone has a full glass.
As well as giving the local intelligentsia the opportunity to discuss rapid drinking techniques for consuming as much free wine as possible while doing a cracking impersonation of Janis Joplin.
The sole additional joy was meeting someone who played a Vogon in the Hitch-hikers movie, luckily most left before he started reciting poetry.

"Sound & Silence" by Andrew Baldwin and Brian Bushell runs at Gallery IOTA until 29th October. Click on the IOTA link on the left hand side for details.


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